Cole Swindell’s ‘She Had Me at Heads Carolina’ Wins Song of the Year at the 2023 ACM Awards
Cole Swindell snagged the Song of the Year trophy at the 2023 ACM Awards on Thursday night (May 11), thanks to his song, "She Had Me at Heads Carolina." The award was presented as the first trophy announcement during the live broadcast of the show.
Presenters for the award, NFL all-time career leading rusher Emmitt Smith and current quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, Dak Prescott took centerstage, saying,"Welcome to our house. To win a football game, it takes a full team. In country music, the same holds true. It all starts with a great songs. All great songs have won this award, including songs about cowboys. And to quote Texas' own George Strait, how about them cowgirls, too. But in this game it's all about the winning songwriters calling the perfect play."
After listing the nominees, Smith and Prescott called out Swindell's name, ushering him to make his way to the podium.
In his thank you speech for Song of the Year, an emotional Swindell — who planted a smooch on his fiancee — said, "I moved to Nashville, Tenn., because I wanted to be a songwriter and that's what this award is. Jo Dee, we wouldn't have this song without you, making the original song a hit. Thank you so much. Everybody on my team, thank you all. And, there's a kid out there tonight that's going to get inspired by somebody's song and they're going to follow it up and chase a dream just like we all have/ God bless you guys. God bless country music!"
Other contenders at the 2023 ceremony included Morgan Wallen's "Sand in My Boots," Cody Johnson's "'Til You Can't," Hardy and Lainey Wilson's "Wait in the Truck" and Chris Stapleton's "You Should Probably Leave."
The ACM Song of the Year award is presented to the recording artist, as well as the songwriters associated with the song.
The chart-topping third single off of Stereotype, Swindell's spring 2022 album, "She Had Me at Heads Carolina" takes '90s nostalgia to a whole new level. It's an updated version of Jo Dee Messina's "Heads Carolina, Tails California," recasting the story around a guy who walks into karaoke night at a bar and is immediately transfixed by a girl singing her heart out.
Messina appears in the music video for Swindell's "She Had Me at Heads Carolina," and both she and Swindell live performed "She Had Me at Heads Carolina" ahead of the win. Swindell wrote the song alongside Ashley Gorley, Jesse Frasure and fellow star Thomas Rhett.
Other recipients of this ACM trophy include Mark D. Sanders and Tim Nichols, who wrote Messina's original.
The 2023 ACM Awards aired from Frisco, Texas' Ford Center on Thursday night. The show streamed on Amazon Prime Video, marking the second consecutive year that the ACMs has moved to a streaming-only format. Garth Brooks and Dolly Parton co-hosted the show; Parton is a repeat host who also took on those duties in 2022, while Brooks has never before hosted a major awards show.